Sweet Bird of Youth

by

Tennessee Williams

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Alexandra Del Lago / “The Princess Kosmonopolis” Character Analysis

An over-the-hill actress who has recently tried to make a comeback to the big screen. On the night of her new film’s premiere, though, she became convinced that everyone thought she was old and pathetic, so she rushed out of the theater and didn’t turn back, effectively running away from her life. Because of this, she is now traveling under the moniker Princess Kosmonopolis. At one point in her travels, she meets Chance Wayne, who joins her on her journey from one fancy resort to the next, all the while devising a plan to force her into helping him become famous in the acting industry. The Princess is a very peculiar character, someone who is nearly capable of purging her memory to avoid the fact that she’s no longer young and beautiful. To help herself do this, she drinks in large quantities and takes all sorts of pills. As a result, it takes her a long time to discover that Chance is trying to blackmail her. When she finally does learn this, though, she doesn’t seem to care very much, agreeing to help him as long as he sleeps with her whenever she wants. By the end of the play, the Princess manages to—in a small way—accept the fact that she can’t reverse the course of her life, but she’s unable to convince Chance to do the same.

Alexandra Del Lago / “The Princess Kosmonopolis” Quotes in Sweet Bird of Youth

The Sweet Bird of Youth quotes below are all either spoken by Alexandra Del Lago / “The Princess Kosmonopolis” or refer to Alexandra Del Lago / “The Princess Kosmonopolis” . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the New Directions edition of Sweet Bird of Youth published in 1959.
Act One, Scene One Quotes

For years they told me that it was ridiculous of me to feel that I couldn’t go back to the screen or the stage as a middle-aged woman. They told me I was an artist, not just a star whose career depended on youth. But I knew in my heart that the legend of Alexandra del Lago couldn’t be separated from an appearance of youth…

There’s no more valuable knowledge than knowing the right time to go. I knew it. I went at the right time to go. RETIRED!

Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Well, sooner or later, at some point in your life, the thing that you lived for is lost or abandoned, and then…you die, or find something else. This is my something else…

Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

You were well born, weren’t you? Born of good Southern stock, in a genteel tradition, with just one disadvantage, a laurel wreath on your forehead, given too early, without enough effort to earn it…where’s your scrapbook, Chance? […] Where’s your book full of little theatre notices and stills that show you in the background of…

Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

Whether or not I do have a disease of the heart that places an early terminal date on my life, no mention of that, no reference to it ever. No mention of death, never, never a word on that odious subject. I’ve been accused of having a death wish but I think it’s life that I wish for, terribly, shamelessly, on any terms whatsoever.

When I say now, the answer must not be later. I have only one way to forget these things I don’t want to remember and that’s through the act of love-making. That’s the only dependable distraction so when I say now, because I need that distraction, it has to be now, not later.

Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
Act One, Scene Two Quotes

Yes, well…the others…[…] are all now members of the young social set here. The girls are young matrons, bridge-players, and the boys belong to the Junior Chamber of Commerce and some of them, clubs in New Orleans such as Rex and Comus and ride on the Mardi Gras floats. Wonderful? No boring…I wanted, expected, intended to get, something better…Yes, and I did, I got it. I did things that fat-headed gang never dreamed of. Hell when they were still freshmen at Tulane or LSU or Ole Miss, I sang in the chorus of the biggest show in New York, in Oklahoma, and had pictures in LIFE in a cowboy outfit, tossin’ a ten-gallon hat in the air! […] And at the same time pursued my other vocation….Maybe the only one I was truly meant for, love-making…slept in the social register of New York!

Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

By the time I got out, Christ knows, I might be nearly thirty! Who would remember Chance Wayne? In a life like mine, you just can’t stop, you know, can’t take time out between steps, you’ve got to keep going right on up from one thing to the other, once you drop out, it leaves you and goes on without you and you’re washed up.

Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

I got the idea I wouldn’t live through the war, that I wouldn’t come back, that all the excitement and glory of being Chance Wayne would go up in smoke at the moment of contact between my brain and a bit of hot steel that happened to be in the air at the same time and place that my head was…that thought didn’t comfort me any. Imagine a whole lifetime of dreams and ambitions and hopes dissolving away in one instant, being blacked out like some arithmetic problem washed off a blackboard by a wet sponge, just by some little accident like a bullet, not even aimed at you but just shot off in space, and so I cracked up, my nerves did.

Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

Princess, the great difference between people in this world is not between the rich and the poor or the good and the evil, the biggest of all differences in this world is between the ones that had or have pleasure in love and those that haven’t and hadn’t any pleasure in love, but just watched it with envy, sick envy. The spectators and the performers. I don’t mean just ordinary pleasure or the kind you can buy, I mean great pleasure, and nothing that’s happened to me or to Heavenly since can cancel out the many long nights without sleep when we gave each other such pleasure in love as very few people can look back on in their lives…

Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Two, Scene Two Quotes

Chance, when I saw you driving under the window with your head held high, with that terrible stiff-necked pride of the defeated which I know so well; I knew that your comeback had been a failure like mine. And I felt something in my heart for you. That’s a miracle, Chance. That’s the wonderful thing that happened to me. I felt something for someone besides myself. That means my heart’s still alive, at least some part of it is, not all of my heart is dead yet. Part’s alive still…Chance, please listen to me. I’m ashamed of this morning. I’ll never degrade you again, I’ll never degrade myself, you and me, again by—I wasn’t always this monster. Once I wasn’t this monster. And what I felt in my heart when I saw you returning, defeated, to this palm garden, Chance, gave me hope that I could stop being a monster. Chance, you’ve got to help me stop being the monster that I was this morning, and you can do it, can help me. I won’t be ungrateful for it. I almost died this morning, suffocated in a panic. But even through my panic, I saw your kindness. I saw a true kindness in you that you have almost destroyed, but that’s still there, a little…

Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

All day I’ve kept hearing a sort of lament that drifts through the air of this place. It says, “Lost, lost, never to be found again.” Palm gardens by the sea and olives groves on Mediterranean islands all have that lament drifting through them. “Lost, lost”…The isle of Cyprus, Monte Carlo, San Remo, Torremolenas, Tangiers. They’re all places of exile from whatever we loved. Dark glasses, wide-brimmed hats and whispers, “Is that her?” Shocked whispers…Oh, Chance, believe me, after failure comes flight. Nothing ever comes after failure but flight. Face it. Call the car, have them bring down the luggage and let’s go on along the Old Spanish Trail.

Related Symbols: The Lament
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Three Quotes

Of course, you were crowned with laurel in the beginning, your gold hair was wreathed with laurel, but the gold is thinning and the laurel has withered. Face it—pitiful monster. [She touches the crown of his head.] … Of course, I know I’m one too. But one with a difference. Do you know what that difference is? No, you don’t know. I’ll tell you. We are two monsters, but with this difference between us. Out of the passion and torment of my existence I have created a thing that I can unveil, a sculpture, almost heroic, that I can unveil, which is true. But you? You’ve come back to the town you were born in, to a girl that won’t see you because you put such rot in her body she had to be gutted and hung on a butcher’s hook, like a chicken dressed for Sunday….

Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
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Sweet Bird of Youth PDF

Alexandra Del Lago / “The Princess Kosmonopolis” Character Timeline in Sweet Bird of Youth

The timeline below shows where the character Alexandra Del Lago / “The Princess Kosmonopolis” appears in Sweet Bird of Youth. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One, Scene One
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
...his “lady friend sounds like she’s coming out of ether,” to which Chance replies: “The Princess had a rough night.” He then explains that his companion is “traveling incognito.” “Golly,” says... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
At this point, the Princess starts to stir and then suddenly bolts upright and gasps, asking for help and demanding... (full context)
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
The Princess insists that Chance hang up the phone. When he does, he tries to tell her... (full context)
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
...Chance. “Why do you call me that? Have I let go of my figure?” the Princess asks. “You put on a good deal of weight after that disappointment you had last... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
The Princess tries to get a better look at Chance, saying that she doesn’t mind “waking up... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
The Princess wants to call the manager to ask where she is and who she’s with, but... (full context)
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
Chance helps the Princess piece together how they met. She says the last place she remembers traveling to is... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
Continuing her monologue, the Princess says that there’s “no more valuable knowledge than knowing the right time to go,” which... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
Proceeding with her story about her cinematic comeback, the Princess explains that she stood up in the theater and ran out. Because she was wearing... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
Princess,” Chance says, turning his attention to the hashish, “don’t forget that this stuff is yours,... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
Apparently, Chance gave the Princess a false name—Carl—when they first met, and this makes her suddenly suspicious of him. However,... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
...too many times to fully trust things that might still be “phony.” In response, the Princess admits that she could technically still get out of the contract if she wanted to.... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
“Chance,” says the Princess, “come back to your youth. Put off this false, ugly hardness and…” Before she can... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
The Princess says she’ll help Chance on the condition that he never mention death or her failing... (full context)
Act One, Scene Two
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
While the Princess writes traveler’s checks for him, Chance tells his life story. He says he was born... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Chance tells the Princess that he has done things nobody in St. Cloud has ever done, like sing in... (full context)
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
...the Navy, Chance’s relationship with Heavenly became vitally important to him. At this point, the Princess interrupts him and asks if Heavenly is the reason he’s come to St. Cloud. He... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
Chance tells the Princess that he always has had Heavenly’s love to come back to. “Something permanent in a... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Because of his troubles with Boss Finley, Chance explains, he needs the Princess’s help. He then tells her what he has in mind: he will show Heavenly the... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Having heard his plan, the Princess calls Chance a “lost little boy,” though she admits she wants to help him “find... (full context)
Act Two, Scene One
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
...Hotel.” When Scudder asks how he’ll justify this, Finley tells him to say that the Princess has something contagious. (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
...Chance. Just then, a car horn sounds through the air as Chance approaches in the Princess’s Cadillac. (full context)
Act Two, Scene Two
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
...for Chance and tells Miss Lucy that he (Chance) has returned to St. Cloud with Alexandra Del Lago . Anxious to find the famous actress, Miss Lucy exits just before Chance makes his... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
...“second” in a contest again. Quickly shifting gears, he shows Nonnie his contract with the Princess, but she’s unimpressed, saying, “Chance, even now, if you came back here simply saying, ‘I... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
...faded,” she says. Chance begins to argue to the contrary, divulging his plan with the Princess to her, but Nonnie tells him to keep his voice down, saying that if Boss... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
...Miss Lucy tries to persuade Chance to leave, but their conversation is interrupted when the Princess enters the lounge calling out for Chance, who simply rushes away. Though he hasn’t left... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
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The Princess keeps telling Chance about what she felt when she saw him driving in her Cadillac,... (full context)
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...name of my sister!” He then tells Chance once again to come down, but the Princess tries to keep him from doing so. (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
...“get the knife” if he doesn’t leave St. Cloud tonight. Having heard all this, the Princess tries to convince Chance that they should leave. As she does so, The Lament drifts... (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Calling for a wheelchair, Chance has the Princess rolled away by Stuff and a bellboy, making him the only person in the room... (full context)
Act Three
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
Later that night, the Princess makes a call to the front desk from her hotel room and urgently requests that... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
...looks like “he has gone a good deal further across the border of reason.” The Princess tells him she’s waiting for a driver, but he insists he’ll drive. “You couldn’t drive... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
Continuing her story about the young actor she once fired, the Princess says she found out that the man made a life of hanging out in casinos... (full context)
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Chance shakes off the Princess, picks up the phone, and dials the operator. As the Princess tries to convince him... (full context)
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Finally, Chance gets the reporter on the phone and gives the receiver to the Princess. As he does this, he whispers, “Tell her that you’ve discovered a pair of new... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
The reporter on the phone tells the Princess that everybody wants her to star in another film. Dazed and content, she tells the... (full context)
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“Chance,” the Princess continues, “you’ve gone past something you couldn’t afford to go past; your time, your youth,... (full context)
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The Princess says that Chance, unlike her, isn’t a “monster” with a “difference,” but just a sorry... (full context)
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Before leaving, the Princess asks Chance if he’s coming or staying. “Staying,” he says, loosening his tie. She tugs... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
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Slowly, The Lament fades in and plays until the end of the play. The Princess tells Chance once more that they must “go on,” but he says he can’t because... (full context)
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Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
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“Come on, Chance,” the Princess says, urging him to come with her. Looking up, Chance only shakes his head—after a... (full context)